Cat shelter needs some scratch

Rescue center loses state grant, about a third of its annual funding

One of the many cats available for adoption at the CLAWS Rescue and Adoption Center. The loss of a grant from a nonprofit agency has cut deeply into the shelter’s budget this year. The funding that was lost amounted to about $42,000 that CLAWS had received in the past.

A local nonprofit cat shelter is scrambling to fundraise and keep operations going after it lost a recurring grant it depended on for one-third of its budget. Concerns over how long the cats stay at the shelter and the shelter’s death rate appear to be part of the reason grantors denied the request for funding.

Cats League & Assistance of the Western Slope (CLAWS) was notified this spring that it would not be receiving funds from the Colorado Pet Overpopulation Fund and the Animal Assistance Foundation, a nonprofit organization that awards grants supporting spay and neuter programs, animal cruelty prevention and other ways to improve the quality of life for animals.

The funding amounted to about $42,000 that CLAWS had received in the past and counted on to serve homeless cats in the community — both feral cats and those that are adoptable — according to Barbara Jones, the organization’s adoption coordinator. The funding also comprised more than 95 percent of CLAWS’ budget for spaying and neutering cats, according to Valerie Mazrin, CLAWS president. The funding from these grants has paid for spaying and neutering for as many as 600 homeless cats per year in the past.

CLAWS is the only cat-specific shelter in western Colorado, and accepts cats of any age, in any health condition. People who relinquish cats at CLAWS are promised that the cats will not be transferred to another shelter where they may be euthanized, and some cats live at the shelter for years.

Mazrin said concerns about how long the cats stay at the shelter, the death rate and the organization’s reluctance to transfer animals to other shelters appears to be the reason why the grant funding was denied. In a letter to Katie Parker, the executive director of the Animal Assistance Foundation Board, Mazrin and Jones explained the reason for their relatively high death rate and longer length of stay for cats at CLAWS. Parker did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Though the death rate at CLAWS in 2015 was almost 12 percent for adult cats, one-third of those cats were older than 12, and some had identified health problems. Half of the juvenile cats that died in the same year were less than 8 weeks old.

CLAWS personnel said they feel the organization has been punished for taking in cats they knew would probably die, which no other shelter wanted.

“We take the handicapped, the hit-by-cars, we take the very, very young and the very, very old,” said Mazrin. “If you take in the high-risk animals, you are going to have a higher death rate.”

Ten years ago, the organization cared for 23 cats when it opened. Now, more than 200 cats are at the shelter, and some will never be adopted. While CLAWS adopts out hundreds of cats each year, it also has cats that stay at the shelter for the remainder of their lives. That lack of turnover in feline inventory raises a red flag with some potential funders, Mazrin said.

The reluctance to transfer cats to other facilities that might euthanize them is something that concerned grantors as well, Mazrin said. In her view, CLAWS promises those who relinquish cats that these animals will be cared for, and she doesn’t want to break that promise.

“We’re going to stand by our values and we will not transfer our animals to an organization that leaves their well-being up in the air,” she said. “When someone releases a cat to us, we assure them we’re going to take care of them until we find it another perfect home or until it lives its life out with us.”

At this point, the organization is going to split into two separate entities to try to avoid issues with obtaining grant funding in the future, Mazrin said. CLAWS will operate as both a rescue and adoption center while starting a new Forever Home Cat Sanctuary, which is just getting established.

Jones said CLAWS has not received any response to the letter, but will apply for the grant next year and is hoping to make up the difference through local fundraising events. Visit for more information.


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